Microsoft has launched its new Windows 8 operating system and Surface tablet in a bid to revive interest in its flagship product and regain ground lost to Apple and Google in mobile computing.
The launch comes amid a slew of other tablet offerings, with Apple unveiling its iPad Mini with a 7.9in (20cm) screen on Tuesday.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble, makers of the 7in (17.7cm) Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, are coming out with larger versions next month.
At the same time as launching the new Windows operating system, Microsoft is also introducing its Surface tablet – its first venture into making computer devices.
That goes on sale on Friday, along with computers and other tablets running Windows 8.
One factor that might dampen enthusiasm for the Surface is its price – $599 (£372) with its touch keyboard cover – and its availability for purchase only from a limited number of Microsoft stores and online, said analyst Kirk Adams.
He said consumers may be reluctant to buy the device until they can try it in person.
Meanwhile, most analysts believe companies and governments will hold off on upgrading to Windows 8 for at least another year.
About half of business users still have not upgraded to Windows 7 from Windows XP, which came out in 2001.
XP also marked the last time Microsoft had a huge launch campaign for Windows. Releases of Windows Vista and 7 since then have been more subdued.
PC World in Carrickmines, Dublin 18 will be the first retailer to offer Windows 8 to consumers with a special opening at midnight tonight.
Ireland has played a key role in the launching of Windows 8 with many employees being involved in the development and testing of the product.
“Team members in the Sandyford based European Development Centre have been involved in core development, localisation and testing work – ensuring that the product was ready for launch in over 100 different languages.
“In addition, the EMEA Operations Centre is providing the logistics support ensuring its available in 56 different markets from tomorrow while our Sales and Marketing team have been working with partners, the developer community and customers over the past number of months to prepare for the launch of Windows 8 in Ireland,” said Paul Rellis, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland.
In the US, initial demand appeared solid, but customers were wary.
Early reviews of the Surface tablet were mixed, with praise for its slick hardware, but concerns about battery life and limited software and applications available.
Investors were uncertain about the prospects for success of Windows 8, but many feel a solid launch could help Microsoft’s stock, which has languished between $20 and $30 for much of the last decade.